This week I dust off the old Nintendo 64 so I can finally ‘clock’ The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time once and for all…
When I first won my Nintendo 64 in some retailer competition, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t much use it. I played the odd game here and there, but my focus was on my PlayStation which I had already owned for a number of years.
The console came without games and lay dormant for a while. As a surprise one day my Dad bought me Gex 3D and Super Mario 64. I found Gex a little hard to control, and I don’t think I ever finished it before trading it in, along with Super Mario 64 which I finished and enjoyed immensely.
I still regret trading in Super Mario 64 for Banjo-Kazooie, even though I ended up loving both of those games. As a kid you have to make sacrifices!
Back at Silverstream Primary School I would argue with my friend David over our consoles and which game was better. He owned a Nintendo 64, and he described to me what you could do in Ocarina, telling me about this gigantic boss he killed with a slingshot. I would counter with Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation. We never played each other’s games. Talk about bias!
It was much, much later when I finally picked up the critically acclaimed Ocarina of Time. Seeing it mentioned over and over again I knew I had to experience this phenomenon for myself. I picked it up off Trade Me in 2007 for a tidy sum of $29.00 including shipping.
So I played it in 2007, but more modern games took centre stage and Ocarina was left to the wayside. I had only gotten up to Dodongo’s Cavern. I knew this wasn’t that far in, because I was still young Link, and I hadn’t even ridden a horse yet.
Which brings us to 2011 and the release of Ocarina of Time on the 3DS. With so many people talking about the remake (mostly other game journos), I knew I had to finish it once and for all. But of course I’m a cheap skate and didn’t want to pick up a 3DS, or a game I had already bought. And so I unpacked my N64 from its original box, loaded up my old Zelda save and went at it.
It took me a while to get my bearings, and I discovered something I had forgotten — old games are hard! I had to refer to an online walkthrough a couple of times to even get through the cavern. There is no GTA marker on the mini-map telling you which way to go. The minimap won’t even appear unless you find the map in a treasure chest. There is no list of objectives either. Just pure unabated discovery.
Afterwards I came across a hidden cave with a fountain. Of course the game didn’t tell me I could use my ocarina to make things happen, and I left thinking it was a waste of time. That’s probably the most insane thing I noted in an old game like this. You actually have to remember these musical notes. It’s not added to a little logbook or anything. You either have to rely on your own memory or grab a pad and pen. So I came back to the cave and performed the little tune, and some CREEPY AS HELL fairy (I’d call her a witch) springs out of nowhere cackling and gives me a neat little spell. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to endure that again for another power, but I did, again and again.
I found the weird looking sea people in Zora’s Domain. I wasted a few hours trying to get into the entrance under Lake Hylia, and missed the message in a bottle entirely. I pushed past the controls and tried my hand at a little fishing to pass the time. With my help guide at hand I eventually found the bottle, and I was swallowed by the beast Jabu-Jabu.
At first I tried carrying the princess out of the cave. I refused to listen to her cries of not wanting to leave. No such luck, the level reset and I had to do it all over again. I’m quite proud of myself here, although it took me a while, I beat not one, but several bosses, and I nearly managed to beat the dungeon without a guide. All up to the part where you had to move a crate onto a switch. Never having done that before in the game I’m guessing most people would’ve had to employ some Adventure game logic there. On re-entering the area, time and time again I would keep destroying the crate looking for pickups.
Then I finally made it to adulthood. Pulling out the Master Sword I felt like I had achieved something. It was strange to see the world look so different now that years had passed. I explored some of the old areas to see some of the changes. First I headed to the stables hoping now I could finally get a horse. The measly owner made me pay for a brief ride around the pen. Not quite the dramatic ride around Hyrule Field I had in mind.
I found my next quest quite easily, but the next part was where I ran into a great deal of trouble. I wasted time in a tomb, when there was this certain tombstone you had to push to reveal another cave, and a ghost you had to chase. I won the hookshot gadget, and although I fired it a few times at things I just couldn’t work out what exactly it did, or how to use it.
I’m sad to say that’s as far as I got. Other games got in the way. I think Bastion may have been the culprit. And now that I’ve moved into a flat without my own television, my Nintendo 64 and Zelda cartridge lay under the bed gathering dust.
Judging by my previous record, perhaps 2015 will fare better?